Hybrid and flexible working have long been a topic of much debate. Our most recent salary survey states that 58% of employees are currently working in hybrid roles whilst 34% are in the office full time. Back in March 2021, the UK began phasing out of the lockdown. Today, we stand on the doorsteps of 2024 and witness specific industries (with major firms such as JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs) demand a return to the five-day-a-week model. But even with a 20.6% decrease in remote job opportunities on LinkedIn and the likes of BlackRock and Amazon tightening their policies, flexible working is here to stay!

Amongst the many lessons the pandemic has taught us, one of the most valuable is the potential in various flexibilities such as different start and finish times, compressed hours, job-shares, the ability to swap shifts etc. As you will continue to read, you will see that there is plenty of work to be done before employers and employees reach a middle ground (and we are yet to discover in what shape or form that will be). We would like to take the opportunity to address the latest HR headlines and help you make more informed career decisions.

Who is this article for?

  • Candidates faced with the prospect of losing/reduced flexible working privileges (and looking to leave as a result).
  • Candidates looking for a job and demanding a flexible working policy.
  • Employers unsure about how they should frame their flexible working policy.

Challenges of Hybrid Working

  1. Human beings are naturally wired to be social. A portion of our sense of happiness and fulfilment depends on how we build and maintain relationships, collaborate, spark ideas, and learn from one another. Many of our current candidates spoke of the very isolating divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – ‘them’ being their office-based counterparts! And if that is not enough, many administrative roles do come with an element of loneliness (a common topic addressed within our Links community), so this point is certainly one to consider when shying away from a great offer because of a limited flexible working policy.
  2. Remote working in a hybrid setting has been associated with poor mental and physical health. It is not only the reduced social interactions, but there is tendency to fall into a poor routine e.g., not taking full lunch breaks or moving around. In the long-term this can have a detrimental effect in your quality of performance as an employee.

From the Employer’s Perspective

As a boutique recruitment agency for personal and executive assistant roles, we have spoken to clients from various sectors about this issue. Senior leaders who are firmly stepping away from the flexible working policy have done so as they believe an office environment improves connections and relationships, collaboration and makes a team more engaged in ongoing projects. This means a company stands a better chance of creating greater revenue – revenue that could potentially go towards bonuses and additional staff benefits including upskilling programs and wellbeing packages which is a staple in today’s economy.

Benefits of Hybrid Working

Our salary survey showed that 73% of our candidates are currently seeking hybrid/flexible working in their next role hence hybrid working remains an essential element when attracting a wider pool of candidates.

  • There is an appeal in employers showing that they can trust their employees to make their own decisions about what works for them and the firm. There will be a vast difference in CV submissions when advertising a job with flexible working vs not. At present, this is the most obvious way of attracting staff and addressing skill and labour shortages.
  • An office should be a destination where employees can enjoy coming in and experiencing the benefits of face-to-face interactions, rather than coming in because the five-day-a-week was once the norm. A recent Forbes article correctly states that happier employees make for more productive employees: ‘A good employee experience (EX) will positively impact the customer experience (CX)’.

From the Employee’s Perspective

The pandemic has caused a considerable shift in mindset. Many not only prefer working-from-home, but their priorities have also changed – time is saved not having a long commute and so much is gained from a healthier work/life balance. Back in 2021, many were willing to take a pay cut to retain these privileges.

The Future of Hybrid Work: Is There a Potential Resolution?

Organisations are advised to prioritise logical justifications rather than relying solely on 'beliefs' when urging staff to resume a five-days-a-week in office. It is crucial to reconsider the purpose of the office, as while it remains a cornerstone of working life, its role has fundamentally evolved since the pre-pandemic era. Aligning the perceived value of working in the office with the advantages of remote work is essential for motivating employees to return.

  • Current working trends: 58% are in hybrid roles, whilst 34% are in the office full time. The push for the five-day-a-week model is evident in certain industries.
  • Issues with hybrid working: The natural human inclination for social interaction and the potential isolation felt by remote workers (with further negative impact on mental and physical health).
  • Upside to five-day-a-week in the office: improves connections, collaboration, and team engagement, leading to increased revenue.
  • Advantages to hybrid working: Attracting a wider pool of candidates and addressing skill and labour shortages. Shift in mindset post-pandemic with many preferring working from home for a healthier work/life balance.